Professional football is a cutthroat market, and Singapore clubs are simply not competitive enough.
Local sporting hero and ex-LionsXII coach V. Sundramoorthy hinted as much when he addressed the impending exodus of his former charges to teams in the region and beyond.
“Football has become a business, let’s face it,” Sundram told Yahoo Singapore, ahead of the IG Masters Sixes tournament held last weekend. “If players receive lucrative offers to play elsewhere in Asia or Europe, why not?
Key LionsXII figures like Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan, Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin have allegedly agreed high-paying moves to Malaysian and Thai sides next season.
Asked if he felt that local footballers were paid too little by their teams, he said: “I spoke with a lot of our players, and I think Singapore clubs are trying their best to keep the good ones here. But when they get good opportunities to go abroad, whether in terms of salary or otherwise, they will definitely consider it.”
Financial reasons have also been linked to Sundram’s departure from Malaysian Super League winners LionsXII to coach second-tier side Negeri Sembilan, where he will reportedly earn S$15,000 a month.
The 48-year-old declined comment and would only confirm that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) “really wanted him to stay”. He also received offers from “top Malaysian sides”, but, ultimately, Negeri proved too tantalising a proposition.
“The club president was very positive and I think he really wanted Negeri’s football to move up to the next level,” Sundram explained. “Their plans made me believe that they’re in the right direction, and I’m the right man to bring them back into the Super League.”
‘Proud’ to coach Singapore
There is but one gig that the man once nicknamed “The Dazzler” supposedly covets above everything else: coaching the national squad.
“I’m a Singaporean,” said Sundram, wistfully. “To one day lead my country at international level will be a proud moment for me… yes, I’ll be very proud.”
He believes heading across the Causeway will not harm his prospects but, rather, improve his skills as a coach.
Yet, Singapore fans may be forgiven for being paranoid. The last time a local football icon embarked on the same route, the result was much heart-rending drama and tales of betrayal, now intimately woven into the near-folkloric legend that is Fandi Ahmad.
Fandi’s name has been most bandied about in intense debate over who should coach the LionsXII next season, and it is another contentious issue that Sundram plain refuses to broach.
“FAS will know who’s the best candidate,” he said. “They’re the best judge of who will be the best coach.”